A Man in Briefs

 

These will be short, short stories containing highlights of my long-winded life.

Bob Hope

Tony Bennett

Rocky Graziano

Vladimir Putin

Gower Champion

Tex Antoine

Steve Gordon

 Casey Stengel

 

BOB HOPE

In 1967, as executive vice president of an advertising agency (Mogul Baker Byrne Weiss), I hired a one-time Hollywood actor named Roger Anderson. Roger was multi-talented and along with a warm and rich speaking voice came an audio production skill that ranked high among the techies of the time. I saw Roger as a partner in my primary creative objective. When my agency, Baker and Byrne merged with Mogul Williams and Saylor, I inherited the Barney’s men’s store account which had built its dominance over New York by heavy saturation advertising on the radio. But, it had been saturating the air waves with what by 1967 were becoming blah jingles featuring endless repetition. My appetite was dripping whet from Barney’s schedule in New York, 11 prime radio stations, each for 1,000 spots per year. I saw it as an opportunity to develop a radio team of “reporters” who were on “Barney’s case” while being as irreverent and as witty as the air waves would permit. Roger was perfect (his great voice gave mine credence and his one-man studio production was fantastic and “free”) We named ourselves Jack Jay and Roger Day (keeping our first names for ease and convenience).

Jay & Day took off like a hit record. We covered New York and its icons and made them all part of Barney’s message. And, we managed to get many celebrities to join in with us, not for fees or union dues, but for sheer exposure of their favorite  message on our powerful New York City schedule.

One of our many “contributors” was Bob Hope, at the time, one of the ten richest people in Hollywood.

Bob, became a viable prospect when, in 1969,  I learned he was producing a TV version of “Roberta”, the show which launched his career when he starred in the original cast on Broadway in 1933. The producing of the TV version in which he would recreate the role of Huckleberry  Haines that he had created three decades earlier.

The measure of a TV special’s success is, of course, ratings. No ratings matter more than those gathered in the New York Metropolitan Area. I got in contact with Paul Pepe, a promotional man close to Hope. I told him that we could give a substantial boost to Roberta’s ratings in New York through Barney’s 30 plus radio spots a day spread over a week or two leading up to the Roberta airing. He got it.

He called back the same day and  said Bob was producing “Roberta” in Dallas, Texas and would welcome Jay & Day and their recording people. Of course, we flew out that night, the two of us. Our recording “people” was Roger and our studio was a 10″ by 8″ UHER tape machine; Jay & Day traveled light. We met Bob at rehearsal in the Bob Hope Theater in the Owens Art Center at SMU. (Bob had donated the theater a year earlier in 1968). Michele Lee, his co-star, and one of my favorite performers was there, along with her few-month old son, David Farrentino, and his nanny. It was a family-like, casual environment. I managed to have David in my arms for half an hour while “nanny” took a break. Roger and I enjoyed an hour of watching Bob Hope up close, acting, directing, making funny and showing his warmth and, as a special treat, his wife, Dolores,  spent time with us talking about advertising, radio and her irascible mate.

Finally, “break-time” came and Roger and I were summoned to a small dressing room to meet with Bob.

“Paul Pepe” tells me you guys are the hottest thing in New York radio.”

Not being shy, I answered, “Yep”.

“So, let’s see my script,” said Bob, very business like. But, as I zipped open my case, he seemed to take a hard look at Roger and, then, “Don’t I know you?” “Well, I lived in Hollywood and was in a few productions,” Roger replied.

“Movies? No!” Bob shot back. “You were a pilot during the war, I met you in England.”

“Damn!” Roger was beaming. “Of course, I remember when you came to visit our squadron. But, I never thought you would, I was just one of thousands you met then.”

“I remember. Piloted B-24  Bombers. You’d been through wild shit but you were calm as a minister! You even made me laugh when I felt like crying.” Roger thanked him. Bob was not kidding. Roger  saw WWII  from the pilot’s seat of a B-24 bomber  and what he saw (including his co-pilots face shot off) was enough to make any grown man cry. (See Distant Thunder, A Life Remembered by Roger Anderson and published by April Anderson.)

Bob took the Barney’s radio script from me, “Now, I feel like I’m among friends, let’s tackle this thing.”

The three of us, with Roger controlling the mike and the UHER tape machine recorded the first 60-second spot in exactly 60 seconds (Bob was certainly as professional as Jay & Day in these matters). One take is all it took

Roger: This is Jay and Day for Barney’s but we’re 2000 miles from 7th Avenue and 17th Street.

Jack: We’re at The Bob Hope Theater in Dallas, Texas where Bob Hope is acting and producing  Roberta, a TV special presentation of the stage musical that started his career.

Roger: And, here with us is …

Bob: This is Bob – I always went to Barney’s to start my stage career- Hope.

 

 

Vladimir Putin

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Michele Lee) (SMU Bob Hope Theater in Owens Art Center at SMU, Dallas donated by Bob opened in 1968 and he staged “Roberta” TV Special there in 1969)(Michele Lee gave birth to David Farrentino in July, 1969)

 

 

 

 

 

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